It means that for the time being the Council of Ministers will deploy the bare minimum level of resources necessary to comply with its commitments under its co-operation agreement with Russia. A Nordic working group has been set up to look at drawing up a programme for co-operation with Northwest Russia.
The Council of Ministers has maintained a presence in Russia spanning 20 years and its office has made significant contributions to establishing contacts between the administrations and business in the Nordic countries and Northwest Russia. It has also been an important contact for and support to Russian civic society, not least in the spheres of culture and education.
Carsten Hansen (DK), chair of the Ministers for Nordic Co-operation (MR-SAM) finds it regrettable that Russia’s decision to give the office in St. Petersburg “foreign agent” status has resulted in a situation that forces the Nordic countries to wind down their activities.
“Continuing operations under the status of a foreign agent is unacceptable to the Nordic governments,” Hansen says.
“The office cannot operate in the current conditions. The purpose of the Council of Ministers’ presence in Northwest Russia to create closer links and better networks between the Nordic countries and Northwest Russia is impossible to achieve as a foreign agent,” Hansen continued.
Russia remains an important partner for the Council of Ministers, and it remains to be seen how the partnership will evolve in the near future.
“Activities on the scale of those of the Council of Ministers in Russia cannot be wound up overnight. A great deal of administrative and organisational work is required with the local authorities, our partners and the staff,” commented Secretary General, Dagfinn Høybråten.
The offices in Northwest Russia employ a total of twenty people, all of whom will be affected by the decision.